Thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm in this science fiction author interview series! The page views and new subscriptions have been fantastic!
I’m pleased to bring you the next in the series. I don’t know how I haven’t had G.S. Jennsen on Zen DiPietro Science Fiction before, because I feel like I’ve known her forever. She and her husband are an unstoppable pair, and if you haven’t checked out her books, do yourself a favor and follow some of the links below!
Zen: Your Aurora Rhapsody series now consists of six books plus a number of short stories. How many more books do you plan to write in this series?
G.S.: I’ve got three more to go. Aurora Rhapsody is divided into three trilogies, and I just finished up the second trilogy this summer. I’ve slowed down my pace a little bit at this point, because the scope has never been bigger than it will be in the final trilogy, Aurora Resonant. The story was always leading to this payoff, and I want to make sure I nail it.
There are currently four short stories (plus a fifth exclusive to the Aurora Rising Collection), with a new one coming out in the Beyond the Stars: At Galaxy’s Edge anthology at the end of August. There will almost certainly be a few more shorts before the series is complete.
Zen: Do you have concrete plans for books outside of the Aurora series, or is that too far ahead to even think about?
G.S.: I had some concrete plans, but they actually managed to get swallowed into the larger Aurora Rhapsody storyline. I worried about that for a few days, but the ideas and characters that I co-opted have settled in perfectly, so I’m not sorry ;). At this point, I’m afraid my brain is locked into a one-track path until the end.
Of course, this leads to the inevitable questions: “Is Aurora Resonant really the end? Are you seriously saying there won’t be any further adventures in this universe or with these characters?” The problem is, I can’t give a straight answer until the series is complete. I’m not trying to be evil—but the honest answer won’t make much sense until people have read the last book, Requiem. So the best I can do right now is to say that the massive story arc which is Aurora Rhapsody will definitively conclude with Requiem.
Zen: You were a lawyer and a software engineer before embarking on a writing career. What caused the shift?
G.S.: Two divergent pathways converging at the right time. I was never very fulfilled in my work—either in the legal field or in engineering. Engineering got closer, but that was mostly (as bizarre as it sounds) because it taught me that I could create things that didn’t exist before. Programs. Designs. Those all start from a very regimented but also very creative space, and working with them got some long-dormant neurons firing.
I’ve always been a science fiction and space junkie, and I realized that if I was going to be creative, there was really only one realm I wanted to be creative in. Add to the mix a horrible enabler in the form of a husband who enjoys saying, “Sure. Jump off the cliff. See what happens. It’ll be fun,” and you end up with a book. Or nine.
Zen: What are your favorite science fiction franchises?
G.S.: I always name Asimov’s Foundation series, because it was the first series that impacted me in a meaningful way. I love Herbert’s Dune for the massive complexity and sweeping story arcs. Like so many people my age, I grew up on Star Wars (I’ve played half a dozen Star Wars video games and love the recent animated shows). Star Trek: TNG was airing when I was in high school and college, and it turned me into a casual Trekkie.
In my opinion, Firefly, Farscape, Babylon 5 and BSG were some of the best TV to air in the last twenty years. Luc Besson’s sci-fi films are guilty pleasures of mine, especially The Fifth Element and Lockout (I’m excited for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). I’m a fan of sci-fi anime, especially Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop. And of course, the Mass Effect video game series.
Zen: Your husband Andy is hugely supportive (and enthusiastic!) about your writing. Can you tell us about how that’s helped you?
G.S.: For decades now, he has been the devil on my shoulder constantly saying, “Go for it.” He’s my foil—a charismatic extrovert where I’m an introvert, quick to take a risk where I’m cautious. I’ve always tended to worry what others might think, but he’d light fire to a bridge just to watch the flames make pretty colors. I labored and worried over the idea of writing a book and putting it out there, yet to him it was a no brainer. “How else are you going to find out if it flies?”
He’s been a constant wall of support: financially, emotionally and every other way. He was excited for me to try writing and publishing—partially because he thought it would make me happy (which it has), but I suspect also because he just wanted to see if it would work. He’s an engineering systems guy, and he enjoys figuring out how larger structures function. Publishing is just another system.
One of the biggest ways he helped early on was with social media networking. Introvert bookish girl had to learn how to talk to strangers, and he helped to draw me out of my shell—prodding me to reach out, be more open and engage with people.
Zen: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
G.S.: Plotter all the way—with a twist. I’ve always been a meticulous planner, sometimes to the point of distraction. I had four years of my college classes planned from the catalogs my junior year of high school, for three colleges. For Aurora Rhapsody, I had the entire series planned at a high level before the first word was written on Starshine.
A funny thing has happened over time, however: some of the characters insisted on getting away from me. Miriam Solovy started it. She refused to be the character I intended her to be; every time I wrote her, she declined to obey (as is Miriam’s way). It worked out, as she’s now by far the most popular character after the two leads. And in letting her run free, new directions emerged for other characters and storylines. As I’ve gotten to know the characters’ personalities and quirks better, I’ve been able to engage in the occasional pantsing, where I just let them take over and see what happens. It’s usually something interesting.
So as I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve come to recognize that both approaches have value. The real trick is learning when each is needed for the story.
Zen: What are your vices?
G.S.: Wine, chocolate, electronic gadgets, space/science news, disaster movies and the man I married. In no particular order.
Zen: Let’s say you’re having trouble with your writing—either the words aren’t flowing or a scene isn’t doing what you need it to. What do you do to reboot yourself and get things going again?
G.S.: I just keep going. Sometimes I have to force the words, and I’ll do that. Other times I’ll write a scene knowing that I will have to come back to it later in a big way once the story solidifies around it—but I get words on the page. Driving, exercising and showers are all guaranteed to unlock the puzzle piece I’ve been looking for to break open a plot tangle.
But mostly it’s just working through it, in one way or another. Writing is my job. If something fights me, I fight back.
After doing it a few times, I’ve realized that writing a book is very much—in my mind—like growing a tree in time lapse. As I write I see the limbs growing outward, the leaves sprouting, then the overall shape filling out. At some point, I’m able to stand back and see the parts that are still weak, then dive back in and weave stronger narrative flows into them. But every book starts out as a spindly little barren trunk, and it’s not going to burst into lush bloom overnight. As a writer, you have to learn to be okay with that.
Zen: I’ve appreciated your geekery for quite some time. What are your favorite ways to get your geek on?
G.S.: We have geek weekends at the house. On a random Friday night we’ll pile up a stack of our favorite movies by the Blu-ray player (aka, Xbox One) and run out to buy groceries for the weekend, then crank up video games on the PCs (sometimes an MMO, other times single-player games) and lock ourselves in for the weekend. Two days later we’ll emerge back into the sun—pale and happy—and rejoin the world.
Zen: What are you working on now?
G.S.: Relativity, Book 7 of Aurora Rhapsody and the first book in the final trilogy, Aurora Resonant. By the end of the sixth book, Abysm, readers have a full picture of the true nature of the Aurora universe; now they’re going to get to see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. Thanks to some unique features of the story, I’m getting to take humanity forward in time far beyond the 24th century period where I’ve centered the series to date.
This is requiring a significant amount of world-building and speculative creation of planets, aliens and technology—to a much greater extent than what I’ve done before. It’s a huge challenge, but I’m relishing every moment of it.
Zen: What advice would you give to people who have an idea of something they want to write, but aren’t sure they can do it?
G.S.: First off, you can do it. It requires work, discipline and dedication, but you can absolutely make it happen. The independent publishing revolution has unlocked access to the entire world of readers. For the first time in history, a writer has the potential and the ability to reach every reader out there, and no one can stop you from doing it.
Let that sink in for a minute. Isn’t it just an amazing time we live in as writers?
Now I’ll answer the rebuttal. No matter who you are or what your circumstances, life is certain to be messy, unpredictable, challenging and, sometimes, hard. It’s not going to stop being any of those things just so you can write the story you’ve always dreamed of writing. If you wait until every aspect of your life and the story is “perfect” in order to begin, you never will. Sit down today and write words—when, where and however many you can. Then do it again tomorrow. That’s the only way you get there.
Let’s finish up with some this-or-that.
Cake or ice cream? Ice cream—unless it’s ice cream cake.
TV or video games? Video Games
Driving or flying? Flying—unless I need story ideas.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars (but I dearly love the fact that my own marriage is a cross gender mix of Kirk and Spock).
Treadmill or free weights? Swimming
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Cabin in the mountains or cabana on the beach? Cabana, all the way. But I live in the mountains, so it’s possible something has gone sideways….
S. Jennsen lives in Colorado with her husband and two dogs. Abysm is her sixth novel, all published by her imprint, Hypernova Publishing. In less than two years she has become an internationally bestselling author, selling in excess of 80,000 books since her first novel, Starshine, was published in March 2014. She has chosen to continue writing under an independent publishing model to ensure the integrity of the Aurora Rhapsody series and her ability to execute on the vision she’s had for it since its genesis.
While she has been a lawyer, a software engineer and an editor, she’s found the life of a full-time author preferable by several orders of magnitude, which means you can expect the next book in the Aurora Rhapsody series in just a few months.
When she isn’t writing, she’s gaming or working out or getting lost in the Colorado mountains that loom large outside the windows in her home. Or she’s dealing with a flooded basement, or standing in a line at Walmart reading the tabloid headlines and wondering who all of those people are. Or sitting on her back porch with a glass of wine, looking up at the stars, trying to figure out what could be up there.